Phil Dirt - Reverb Central - PO Box 1609, Felton, CA 95018-1609 USA
The Challengers - Challengers' Greatest Hitsdotdotdot
artworkChallengers' Greatest Hits is a 1967 collection of tracks from Los Angeles' Challengers, a band descended from The Belairs and fundamentally important in their own right. Some mighty fine tracks here!
Picks: Mr. Moto, Telstar, Bedlam, Mr. Rebel, K-39, Pipeline, Moondawg, Sloop John B., Foot Tapper

Track by Track Review

Mr. Moto dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This is very similar to the Belairs master, but in stereo, and a little less intense. Glenn Grey's string bending is unusual. Jim Roberts' piano is mostly lost in the mix. Pure South Bay surf roots. This song is thee transition piece.

Wipe Out dotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Uninspired performance, with a weak guitar sound. While Hal Blaine's rolling drums make it different, there's no substitute for Ron Wilson's fluid performance.

Telstar dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

A spirited performance, in a purely surf forum, with the organ melody carried by a shiny double picked guitar. The energy is fine, and the arrangement is very good.

Bedlam dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This Paul Johnson tune is so similar to "Beat '65" that it always begs the question of which came first... This is a nice cover, not quite as smooth as the Belairs, but very well done.

Mr. Rebel dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

A decent cover of Eddie and the Showmen's one hit. The playing is solid, and the arrangement is mostly true to the original. Not unusual, but competent.

Back Beat dotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This ancient tune is little more than a fifties progression with a bit of updating. It's rhythmic and fun, but doesn't leave a lasting impression.

K-39 dotdotdotdotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

"K-39" is one of the best late Surf tracks. It is named after a Surf spot 39 kilometers south of the California-Mexico border. Hal Blaine's drumming is exquisite, and the melody is great. This is a true Surf classic, melodic, powerful, double picked joy!

Pipeline dotdotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

The best cover of this tune from the sixties, except for possibly the Lively Ones and the Van Slyke. Hal Blaine's drumming is superb, and his use of the toms in place of guitar glissandoes is brilliant! Great song

Apache dotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

It's funny to hear the Challengers do this in essentially the Jorgen Ingmann arrangement on an album that is not far from being a Shadows clone collection of songs. It is nowhere as good as the Ingmann version, but is quite competent.

Moondawg dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Derry Weaver's classic pre-surf monster, done with great reverence. A Theremin opens this track, but after that, it's a pretty straight cover of the Gamblers' classic. The added organ and subdued chorus are the essential variations, as well as the cleanliness of the track. Good performance and worth a spin.

Sloop John B. dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Arranged a lot like Dick Dale and the Del-tones' version, less the violins and vocal, the Challengers make this into a fluid middle of the road surf number. It's quite nice, with a fine backtrack and guitar lead.

Foot Tapper dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This is a fine West Coast variation on the Hank Marvin / Bruce Welch (Shadows) composition. This version is very clean and full bodied. It is lively, and fun. The male chorus of "ahhhh" makes it a bit too commercial for my tastes, but I have always liked it. It's no "K-39," but then what is? melodic mid tempo fun.